Okay, I admit I was a geek in high school. I immersed myself in science because at that time I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I played bridge and chess for fun, another black mark against me. Of course I read lots and lots of science fiction.
College unleashed even more geek from deep inside me. I carried my books in an ammunition bag I purchased from an army surplus store. At least I never had to worry about anyone stealing it. Arizona required a hat for protection, and I had a dandy –I wore a foam pith helmet I found somewhere. The result was a unique look, one that certainly wasn’t copied. I had a great summer job that gave me even more geek points. Imagine a job as an autopsy assistant at a county hospital.
Over the years I continued my life as a geek. I became infatuated with personal computers when they first came out and wound up in the industry. I sold them and wrote books about the early PCs. Since there were few if any applications at first, I developed customized apps for my customers. I even wrote a book on how to program games for the Commodore 64, a great little game computer. I moved into jobs in data communications and telecommunications and even network management and wrote college textbooks on those topics.
When I finally found the king of all geek jobs, I fell in love with it and spent two decades doing it. I was a technology research analyst. When my boss came by to give me my first paycheck in the job, I was stunned. I had forgotten that I was betting paid to do the work because it was so much fun. Imagine getting paid to read stuff I’d read for nothing and then getting paid to talk and write about technology. One of the best parts of the job was the role of futurist in which I had to forecast what would happen in technology several years out.
So, acting as a technology analyst required me to speculate about the future. What kind of devices would people be using in five or ten years? This type of thinking has come in handy when it comes to writing science fiction novels. My latest, Alien Love, was just published by Booktrope. What fascinates me is the idea of first contact between different races. How will we communicate when we have different standards of morality and ethics and probably think very differently. Would we find each other attractive as a race?
That might sound like a trivial question, but remember how we judge the value of various animals. We put the animals with “cute” faces in special categories while we feel no compunction when it comes to destroying other animals. Who could love a possum? Would you want to communicate with one or with a giant-sized rat? What if a large cockroach sidled down a gangplank from a spaceship and turned out to be a missionary? Would we find ourselves left out as a race when the insects in our world wildly embraced this visitor?
So, science fiction appeals to the geek in all of us by allowing us ask the questions that no one ever would ask otherwise. Will machines have any morality at all or will they stamp us out as vermin? Will robots serve as sexual surrogates for people who don’t want to go to the time and trouble to romance someone? Of course there are some very high-level geeky questions to consider such as how can we travel the immense distances required in a universe that seems to be bound by the laws of physics? If we conquer disease and live much longer lives, how would our world cope with the added population as well as the lack of jobs? Are the reports of aliens on the Moon accurate? Has Earth been visited before?
The list of questions goes on and on; meanwhile, the geek in me loves the challenge of turning speculation into speculative fiction.